Chapter three--- Swirling smoke
9:57 PM | Author: Jeff
Marie-Ann Sutherland sat in the living room of her apartment, smoking a pal-mall, she’d been smoking them since she was sixteen, and stolen one from her mothers pack. She remembered that the cigarette had tasted horrible, a kind of burning charcoal that almost choked her, causing her to cough violently, but when she was sixteen everyone who was any one smoked.
Marie-Ann sat in her usual place, an armchair in the living room, she exhaled the thick tar filled smoke, watching it swirl and twist as it rose towards the brown stained ceiling. The room was dark, shades drawn, the lights off, only diffused sunlight forced it’s way through the curtains, catching the swirling smoke and giving the room a hazy, brownish look. Marie-Ann stubbed the cigarette out, a thin line of smoke still poured from the moist filter, she immediately reached for her pack and lit another, the flame from her lighter briefly lifting the shadow from her face, to reveal lines and wrinkles in her skin, well ahead of her years, her lips cracked and swollen, her eyes black.
In the kitchen Hank coughed, the walls in this apartment were thin, too thin she thought. Hank had really given her a beating when he had come home last night, he had been flying, landed some big deal or something, he was near pass out drunk and in coherent, as he usually was. Marie-Ann had been pissed off at him coming home so late, foolishly she had raised her voice and he had exploded, he had punched her in the mouth, which had knocked her to the floor, then while she lay there curled up on the floor, he had given her three of his best drunken kicks the face and stomach, the memory of which caused her eye and lip to burn slightly.
‘What do I stay here for’ she thought, though she already knew the answer, deep down she loved Hank and she believed that he loved her too.
‘He wasn’t always this bad’ she thought, he had always had a temper and loose fists, but it had never been like this in the old days.
Marie-Ann had run away from home when she was seventeen, she had lived with her father and mother; a military family, this meant they had been living on various bases over the years. Her mother had been a shrill woman, ran her house hold with an iron fist, she had always had a kind of disappointed look on her face, Marie-Ann often thought it was because she was unhappy being married to a career marine, always moving, living on base, surrounded by all the gossip, that comes from the bored and neglected wives of marines.
“A marine’s first and only marriage is to the corps” her mother would sometimes say.
Life under the reign of Sergeant Sutherland was no picnic, Marie-Ann had come to call her father by his military title, due to the fact that he seemed to treat her with the same regard as he did his men, He arrived home at precisely the same time each day, and instantly fell into his routine; a routine that was not to be interrupted. She had so wanted to share her day with her father, tell him about what had happened at school, but he always stopped her with the same sentence.
“Marie-Ann, not now, this is my down time, been a long day” and with that her heart would sink, in her eyes, Daddy had all the time in the world for everything but her. By the age of eleven Marie-Ann Sutherland had completely given up on getting her fathers attention. By the time she turned sixteen, she had all but completely removed herself from her family, she never spoke to her father, and only spoke with her mother when it was necessary; for all parties concerned Marie-Ann was a ghost, her father was too involved with the corps to notice and her mother, preferred not to open a can of worms, suffering in silence was a far better option than a house of chaos.
When she had turned seventeen, Marie-Ann had run, and she had run hard, she left the sheltered life of the Marine Corps and headed for the city. She had been so naive, totally without a clue, she had landed on the streets, expecting to be swept up in the marvel of it all, meet a nice man with a flash car, eat at restaurants, wear beautiful dresses, she had stars in her eyes as the saying goes, she had landed on the streets full of dreams, and on the streets she had stayed.
The streets are hard, and Marie-Ann had been through it all, she had slept in door ways; her only shelter from the rain, sifted through garbage cans behind restaurants looking for food scrapes to take the burning from her empty stomach, once her money dried up. She eventually turned to stealing, something which her upbringing had left her completely inept for, on her second attempt at a babe Ruth bar she had been caught by the store clerk, which had landed her in lock up. She remembered sitting there on the metal bench, her will almost broken, she was ready to give up, call home, but then she had met Karen Sloan.
Karen Sloan was a hooker, she had been picked for drunk and disorderly conduct. Karen was only a few years older than Marie-Ann, also a small town girl, her father had been in the Navy, she and Marie-Ann had become instant friends that night.
Karen had left home at sixteen, her Dad was a great guy she said, but one of her dad’s Navy buddies, a man Karen had known as Uncle Billy for as long as she could remember, had jumped into her bed as soon as puberty had hit. Quietly she had suffered for nearly a two years, Uncle Billy would sneak into her room after her father had passed out; her father was an alcoholic, have his way with her, warn her not to tell her father, then sneak out again. When she turned sixteen, she left; she wrote a note for her father, explaining what had been happening to her, cursing him for being too much of a drunk to notice the abuse she was suffering. She knew it would crush her father, she loved him, but blamed him also, he was supposed to protect her, he had failed her.
Sometimes she had wondered what had become of her dear old uncle Billy, knowing full well that her father would have gone berserk. Karens father may have been a drunk, but he was a formidable man and he loved his daughter. She didn’t know that her father had beaten Uncle Billy to death with the butt of his service revolver before blowing his own brains out, his last words were “I’m sorry Karen, forgive me”
The two girls traded stories of their first days in the city, the excitement intermingled with fear, the desperation that came as the burning of hunger took hold of their stomachs, then Karen told Marie-Ann about a night in shining armor, a man who saved her from the hell she was in, he had swept her off the streets, and brought her under his wing, he had saved her; his name was Hank.
Marie-Ann listened to every word as they fell from Karen’s lips, her hope rising, maybe she would find a prince soon too, some one who would save her like Karen had been saved.
In the morning after they had been released, Karen took Marie-Ann back to the Hotel where she worked, and that is where Marie-Ann had first met Hank.
Hank was so amazing, Marie-Ann had thought, he had listened to her tell her tale.
“This city is a dangerous place” he had told her, “You’re lucky to have met Karen” he said, a warm smile on his face. He told her he’d take care of her and that she had nothing to worry about, so long as she stuck with him. That night Hank had taken Marie-Ann to her first real dinner date, then a movie, he was so funny, a real player. Hank had given her a room in the hotel and Karen had given her some fresh clothes, two nights later she had lost her virginity to Hank, a week after that she turned her first trick, she became Hanks number one girl, and he took her every where.

Marie-Ann smiled at the memory, her split, swollen lip stinging instantly, she drew deep on the Pal-mall again. The smoke filled her lungs and seemed to take the hollow feeling away, she never used to have this feeling, the hollow shattered feeling that comes when you realize you’ve lost everything, and there is no way to ever get it back. That is what had happened when the little bastard son of hers had been born, she had gotten pregnant just before her eighteenth birthday she was sure it was Hanks but in truth it was nearly impossible to tell, she was the youngest and most sort after of all Hanks girls, she had been turning four or five tricks a day back then, as well as Hank, any one of those men could have been the father. The day, she told Hank she was pregnant, was the day Hank had changed, the day her world had fallen apart. Six months later she gave birth to Jay Sutherland, he looked like her father, the same piercing green eyes, Marie-Ann felt her father’s disappointment every time she looked into Jay’s eyes, those green eyes that stared wildly up at her, filled her with shame, Marie-Ann knew this child was her responsibility and so she decided to care for him, though she knew she would never love him, all she felt towards her son was resentment.

Jay Sutherland, a nine year old boy, dressed in ragged ill fitting clothes, which hung loosely from his bony frame, sat in a poorly lit living room, watching smoke rise towards the ceiling, the smoke poured out of his mothers mouth, in a near constant rhythm as she chain smoked her pal malls, staring blankly into the air somewhere just above and beyond Jay’s head.
His hair, long and ragged hung just past his shoulders, his face was not like that of most nine year old boys, his cheeks hollow and gaunt with mal nutrition, his eyes dull and lifeless, lacking the spark of curiosity and enthusiasm which seems to only exist in the face of a child.
Another thing that separated Jay Sutherland from most other children was his lack of movement; he sat like a statue, only his green eyes in motion, as they slowly followed the clouds of rising smoke.
Jay had spent almost everyday of his life that he could remember sitting with her like this, he remained in the living room, partly to avoid Hanks temper, the darkness and gloom of this room seemed to disgust Hank, as such he almost never came in here. The other reason that kept Jay Sutherland locked in the darkness, a much more consuming reason, was that he had no where else to be. The fresh bruises on his face throbbed a little, he tried not to move his mouth or eye lids, he had been beaten enough to know that moving just made it all hurt more. Jay looked at the curtains hanging over the window, they had been white once, he remembered seeing white curtains there, though the memory was very vague and he often wondered if it was real or not, the curtains were now brown and tattered, light was fighting to get through them, but it would never win, Jay knew that there was no power in the world that could lift the gloom from this room, he took comfort in that thought.
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Reader Reviews!

"Wow. That's awesome. I like how you write, it's unique and descriptive and paints an image for you. when i was reading this first chapter, i could just picture this becoming a blockbuster movie or something." ...Toni Brolin

"I'm utterly and completely hooked! The characters are so defined and the relations between them are extremely deep. Keep writing. I can't wait to read more. x"...Elise

"What amazes me about your work is that you have an incredible capacity to get into the minds of your characters, regardless of age or gender. That is truly a great talent."...Kathleen

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I'm supposed to be doing all sorts of things--writing cards, laundry, decorating and what happens? You put up another Chapter! So much for my schedule. Ooh, it's a good one, though that's for sure. What a cliffhanger. Can't wait to see what Sabian has to say. Really good tense stuff, but with just the right poignancy."...
Kat